Roller Derby Lingo: The Basics

Roller Derby Lingo: The Basics

If you’ve ever watched a roller derby bout, then you know how hardcore it can be. Jams, jumps and grand slams — there’s never a dull moment. But it can also be confusing. Like any sport, derby has plenty of slang words and phrases that are thrown around and not always explained, making it difficult for newcomers to understand what’s going on. If you’re interested in better understanding the game or maybe you’re considering trying it out for yourself, here’s a breakdown of the lingo you should know to better get to know the game.


27 in 5 — Shorthand for skating 27 laps in under five minutes. This is a minimum skill requirement for all roller derby skaters.


Bout — The period of gameplay, which lasts 60 minutes and is divided into two 30-minute sessions. Compare this to a game of soccer or a tennis match. A bout of derby is the same thing.


Pack — The largest group of blockers on the track containing members of both teams. This excludes the jammers.


Grabbing a Goat — A game strategy used by derby teams to knock an opponent out of bounds. When the opponent re-enters, all blockers surround them to keep them separated from their own pack.


Jam — A 2-minute race between packs to score points.


Jammer — The jammer, identified by the stars on their helmets, scores points for their team by lapping members of the opposing team. Each pack gets one designated jammer during a jam.


Grand Slam — Anytime the jammer scores the maximum 5 points on the track.


Man on Man / Woman on Woman — As a team’s jammer approaches, each blocker hits an opposing blocker to make them fall or knock them out of bounds, allowing the jammer to score points.


Jumping the Apex — Anytime a player leaves the surface of the track while remaining in bounds by leaping across the infield and landing on the other side of the track.


Official Review — A team can call an official review to challenge a referee’s call or petition that the current score be double-checked.


There are far more phrases to get to know if you’re considering joining a derby team. But for now, these basic terms should allow you to dip your toes in the water and follow a bout with a general understanding.



 Credit: Photo by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner on Flickr


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